Lesson Plan: Deren, Anger, and Their Films Today


Ian here—

This is not a full lesson plan. It is only a few remarks, which I made at the beginning of my class before moving on to the lesson proper, which was much more discussion-based.

I consider these remarks to be necessary in the current moment, and I plan to continue delivering such remarks during future lessons. Many filmmakers associated with North American avant-garde cinema are wild fabulators, building up grand mythologies for themselves and their careers. The figures examined here are certainly no exception. However, it is important that, as instructors, we do not get too caught up in telling these stories. These filmmakers were not just Great Geniuses. They were people, human beings living in a particularly historically-situated time, within the realities of a certain political regime. Acknowledging this reality is crucial, as it helps us better understand our own era.

It is useful to keep the following things in mind, and to repeat them whenever possible:

Meshes of the Afternoon (Maya Deren with Alexander Hackenshmied, 1943), often considered the precipitating film of American avant-garde cinema, was made by two immigrants.

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